July 2, 2014 at 2:56 AM the Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2), NASA’s first dedicated Earth remote sensing satellite to study atmospheric carbon dioxide from Space. was launched on a Delta rocket. OCO-2 will be collecting space-based global measurements of atmospheric CO2 with the precision, resolution, and coverage needed to characterize sources and sinks on regional scales. OCO-2 will also be able to quantify CO2 variability over seasonal cycles.
The world’s oceans, plants and soils on land, and numerous other less significant carbon pools within the global carbon cycle steadily absorb carbon and are called sinks. They serve to reduce the amount of CO2 that remains in the atmosphere. However, the geographic distributions of carbon uptakes by the oceans and terrestrial ecosystems are still uncertain. In addition, the effectiveness and efficiency of these sinks may change over time as more CO2 is emitted into the atmosphere.
OCO-2 will be collecting high-resolution measurements, which will provide a greater spatial distribution of CO2 over the entire globe. These measurements will be combined with data from the ground-based network to provide scientists with the information that they need to better understand the processes that regulate atmospheric CO2 and its role in the carbon cycle.